Sunday, January 21, 2018

Drop Everything & Follow Me

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 21 Jan., 2017, Epiphany 3
Year B RCL: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:6-14; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Jesus says:
Drop everything & follow me.

Do we have the grace to do as the disciples do?

We see this grace in St. Francis, who “drops everything” to follow Jesus.

Our Psalm assures us: “Power belongs to God”. Despite God’s power, God will not force us to follow Jesus. Yet God’s steadfast love keeps reaching out to embrace us & every human.

We know the disciples drop everything immediately.
● No quibbling about dropping out of their business
  obligations, finding replacements for them to help Dad in
  the family business.

● No questions to Jesus about his people-fishing business:
   Are there paid vacations?
   A retirement account?

What a contrast our Gospel gives us to our lesson from Jonah! 

[Jonah was my “patron saint” for years as I prepared for ordination, having run from God's distinct call for about 25 years! So I admire the disciples who drop everything & immediately follow Jesus.]

Our 1st lesson says: The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a 2nd time. What do you remember of Jonah's 1st time?

[Congregations' responses included: Flees in opposite direction. Big storm. Pagan sailors pray to Jonah’s God to save them. Jonah says: Throw me overboard. They do. A big fish swallows him & 3 days later vomits him out on the beach.]

Today we see this pig-headed prophet going through the motions. I wonder if he cries out the message in a monotone like this:

Whatever way he says it, the people hear, believe & respond immediately. What a contrast to Jonah!

Our scripture says Nineveh is exceedingly large. Sources say archaeologists have not found such a site but have found a site of a city about 3 miles long by 1½ miles wide.1 More important than physical size is how Nineveh looms large over the peoples it oppresses in the 5th century Before Christ. As Assyria’s capital, it is a huge force of pagan power.

One writer says: Nineveh is hated because the Assyrians have destroyed Israel’s Northern Kingdom, wrecked Judah’s towns, ravaged all countries in the Near East.”2

Jonah’s pig-headedness reflects the attitude of many of his contemporaries, who just can’t see how God can possibly offer mercy to the wicked who cause so much suffering.3

In our times: Think ISIS. Think 911. Think Nazis.

God’s call to Jonah to warn his era’s Nazis of pending doom challenges Jonah & others like him who can’t see God’s forgiveness & mercy reaching out to people who have hurt them & are outside of God’s covenant.

Yet Nineveh & its people are part of God’s creation which God calls good, so they must have time to repent…4

In the book of Jonah, we see God’s love reaching out. As author Victor Matthews says5: We see a new perspective developing among people in Jonah’s day: They start to see their belief in one God means God is God of all, so even hated, brutal enemies can belong to God & must have the chance to hear God’s message of love, grace & repentance.

This perspective makes it possible for people in Jonah’s day & for us to pray for our enemies.

The book of Jonah shows us: “…simple justice is not God’s way; God remains free to be gracious to those who deserve nothing less than punishment.”6

It shows us how widely God’s mercy flows to embrace all the human family.

We express this in Morning Prayer in our Prayer for Mission [Book of Common Prayer, page 101, please join me in praying this]:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.7

Like this prayer, our scriptures today assure us we can make a positive difference in the human family. Jonah’s story
& our Gospel tell us: Do what God calls us/you to do & we/you serve God’s will for all.

Your Epiphany star word may guide you in discovering what God requires, wants of us/you & needs of us/you in 2018.
The message we have to share is simple:

God loves you.
No exceptions.
All are welcome.

The Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp. And The Seabury Press. 1997.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad BĂ­blica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. Inc. 2001.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Expanded Ed. Revised Stantard Version. Eds: Herbert G. May. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.
Portaro, Sam. Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Revised & Updated. Boston: Cowley Pulications. 2001.

1 Among sources: Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 729. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. P. 1121.
2 Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. P. 163.
3 Ibid. Harper’s. P. 728.
4 Ibid. Matthews. P. 163.
5 Ibid. P. 167.
6 Ibid. Harper’s. P. 728.

7 Book of Common Prayer. P. 101.

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